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Everyone is victim of climate change, says Dr Chibamba

A CLIMATE change expert says climate change is so complex such that from drought there is going to be hunger, from hunger there is going to be disease.

“So, it’s not just the physical impact of the crop failing. There are cascading issues, in terms of health, that will come from there,” Dr Douty Chibamba said.

Dr Chibamba teaches at the University of Zambia (UNZA), under the geography and environmental studies department – School of Natural Sciences.

He featured on ZNBC TV’s Sunday Interview programme.

Dr Chibamba says the pressing issues of climate change in Zambia lie mostly around one major issue – financing.

He said everyone is victim of climate change.

“That’s the reason why we should take interest [in climate change issues]. Actually, nobody should even request us to take interest in climate change,” he said. “When there is a drought, flood, you and I will get affected. When the consequences of climate change come…”

Asked to define climate change, Dr Chibamba agreed that the matter is a technical phrase for many people – “a very knowledge intensive subject”.

“First of all, climate change is measured over a 30-year period. We collect elements of weather readings on a daily basis, mostly rainfall and temperature. So, over a 30-year period if we see that there is a significant departure from the averages that we are accustomed to – either the temperatures increases, the rainfall increases…” he said.

Dr Chibamba said: “if the temperature increases, you have droughts.”

“If the rainfall increases, you have floods. Then you begin to see that the climate is changing,” Dr Chibamba noted.

He also gave a definition of climate change for a common man.

“When do you see climate change? When you start seeing that the crops that you used to plant properly previously are failing, that is climate change. There are instances where livestock – cattle, goats – start dropping dead because of drought. That is climate change,” he explained. “In Zambia we may not have gone to that extent. But in the Horn of Africa, especially, this is like a common occurrence. But also most importantly, climate change is unpredictable.”

He further indicated that there were also tipping points insofar as climate change.

“You can get to a point where there is a sudden drastic change never seen before. And you are talking about small island States like Maldives, Seychelles, people will go to bed at night [and when] they wake up the following morning, the entire island, including people and property, are submerged in water,” Dr Chibamba said. “Such abrupt tipping points can happen – there is a possibility. Low-lying countries like Bangladesh, the entire country, because of sea rise, can be submerged in water and everybody can die. So, we can get to those extremes.”

Dr Chibamba noted that: “in a layman’s language, when you see that your agriculture is becoming difficult – flooding, drought is rampant – then you begin to know that climate has changed.”

Asked where Zambia is, in terms of matters of climate change, he responded that quite a lot has been done, so far.

“As a country we have done quite a lot. There is some effort that has gone into dealing with the problem of climate change,” he said. “First of all, on the policy side of things, over the years, we have tried to put in place policies and strategies to deal with climate change. The key pressing issues of climate change in Zambia lie mostly around one major issue – financing.”

Dr Chibamba said the keys issues arising of climate change in Zambia are floods and droughts.

“This is what as a country we are planning for. How do we deal with these floods [and] droughts that are affecting our people? Climate change is so complex; from drought there is going to be hunger, from hunger there is going to be disease,” Dr Chibamba explained. “So, it’s not just the physical impact of the crop failing. There are cascading issues in terms of health that will come from there. Flooding is another issue. So, for us these are the key impacts that we face – droughts and floods.”

He indicated that to try and deal with the problem of droughts and flooding, “whose magnitude and frequency is increasing by the year, the government came up with different plans and strategies.”

“I can mention a few of them. Around 2007 we did what were called NAPAZ (National Adaption Plan of Action). In 2010, that was followed by the National Climate Change Response Strategy, somewhere [in] 2011, 2012, we came up with Nationally Appropriate Mitigations Actions (NAMAZ),” he noted. “All these are targeted at trying to sort out this problem. One of the challenges we have had with NAMAZ, NAPAZ climate change strategies, is that these are desktop developed studies. We didn’t really have field work to get what’s on the ground. These were quick documents we made so that we can get donor funding from here and there.”

Dr Chibamba continued, saying: “but we went on later on in 2015 [and] developed our blueprint to deal with the problem of climate change, both from the mitigation and adaption side.”

“And that is the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) 2015 for Zambia. That is the blueprint that we have now on how we are going to deal with the issue of mitigating against climate [and] adapting to climate change,” said Dr Chibamba. “So, in terms of policy I would say we have made some efforts. There’s room for improvement, of course. Currently, we are working on the national adaption plan. You need one blueprint document for the whole country which is going to contain all your adaption plans and aspirations so that even funding becomes easier to channel.”

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